Sunday, September 28, 2014

To selfie or not to selfie?

Is it ever inappropriate to take a selfie? If you didn't take a picture or record it, did it even happen?

During a JetBlue Flight from California to Texas on September 18, the plane's starboard engine burst, immediately releasing smoke into the cabin and causing oxygen masks to fall from above. While other passengers were freaking out, Scott Welch had a different reaction to the crisis. Instead, Mr. Welch, a sports photographer, responded in a distinctly 2014 manner: He reached for his Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, thrust it into the murky air and pressed the record button. He even found the presence of mind to record a smiling selfie.  The plane landed safely, but the videos soon went viral with over 1 million views on YouTube. 

A snapshot from one of Welch's videos
Over the course of the past year, selfies have taken social media by storm. It seems that everyone, from celebrities to Pope Francis, has taken one. At the Oscars last year, Bradely Cooper's famous selfie became Twitter's most retweeted tweet with over 2 million retweets and a total of 32.8 million views. The phenomenon is even the basis behind a new show on ABC titled Selfie, a show about a woman who doesn't know how to interact outside of the internet world. It may seem completely ridiculous, but is it possible? Could we become so obsessed with recording our lives that we forget to live our lives? 

When I scroll down my newsfeed, whether its Instagram or Facebook, more than 50% of the photos I see are selfies. I'm not going to lie, my smartphone is filled with selfies of me and my friends. But after reading this article, I was immediately concerned with the power of a picture. Welch was in a potentially life threatening situation, and he chose to take a video recording himself. This just doesn't seem natural! In years past, I don't think this thought would have ever crossed anyone's mind. In Welch's defense, he said he took the video to show his family, in case the plane did not land, that he was smiling. Although I understand his intention, I don't think it was appropriate. I think its important to understand the gravity of a situation and react accordingly. Welch could have been in real danger, yet his main concern was not attention to his safety. The purpose of a picture is to capture the moment, cataloging memories for years to come. But lets not get carried away and remember that human interaction and appreciation of special moments can never truly be captured on film.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The NFL: A League in Denial?

The downwards spiral for the NFL has continued in the week following the Ray Rice incident. Not one, but two more players from the NFL have been convicted of domestic abuse charges. And sadly, these NFL players aren't the only ones involved in domestic abuse cases--just ask the 4 million victims. 

Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, has been charged with child abuse for beating his son with a wooden switch in May. The four year-old was taken to the hospital by his mother after the incident occurred, with potentially scarring welts and bruises. The NFL has placed Peterson on the exempt commissioners permission list, which means he is suspended during the case. He will still receive the rest of his $11.75 million salary. In addition to Peterson, Greg Hardy has also been suspended and placed on the exempt permission list for two counts of domestic violence. 

A before (left) and after (right) image of the Ravens model
Unbelievable. After my last post, I didn't think things could get much worse for the NFL. Players are dropping like flies, finally being punished for their actions. Yet, a vast majority of players charged with domestic violence crimes, if they were disciplined by the league at all, received one-game suspensions even after pleading guilty to lesser related charges or entering pretrial intervention programs. Goodell faces pressure to resign from the NFL due to his decisions regarding the recent incidents this season. On September 14th, banners reading #GoodellMustGo flew over two stadiums from Ultra Violet, a women's activist group. This issue has outraged social media. A different activist group vandalized The CoverGirl ad campaign, Get Your Game Face On, by photo shopping a black eye onto the Ravens model. 

A woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend every 15 seconds in the U.S. On average, between 4 and 7 children die every day from abuse at the hands of adults. Is this what America has come to? Physically abusing the ones we are supposed to love and respect? The NFL needs to use this attention for good. In addition to changing some of their laws on domestic violence, I think they should make campaigns to help stop abuse. During games, they could have commercials raising awareness to the issue, since millions of viewers tune in to watch Sunday night football (my family included). It's their duty as a profit generating organization, which entertains millions of viewers each week, to set moral standards and act accordingly. The NFL needs to uphold laws established by our government and follow rules of decent behavior. They are a voice touching millions of Americans and they have an obligation to use that power to elicit change and help. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Too Little Too Late

Shame on the NFL. Why did it take the release of a graphic video depicting violence and abuse to make the NFL punish one of their own? The initial information the public received about Raven's star Ray Rice should have pushed the NFL to a zero-tolerance policy on domestic abuse. 

The NFL has gotten themselves in deep trouble with what seems to be the entire country. On Monday, TMZ released a video showing Rice beating his then-fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer in an elevator. After he knocked her out, he proceeded to drag her unconscious body outside by her feet. In March, a photo was released of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator, causing the NFL to give Rice an inadequate suspension of merely two games for the following season. However, the case made headlines again when this video was released. The public uproar forced the NFL to revisit the situation and impose a more severe punishment. Rice has been suspended indefinitely and cut from the Ravens. 

If Rice wasn't a well-known, professional athlete, his initial punishment would have undoubtedly been more severe. They took Rice's "celebrity status" and let that skew their judgement of right and wrong.  Goodell told CBS News news on Tuesday, “We assumed there was a video, we asked for a video, but we were never granted that opportunity”I suspect the NFL knew more about the case than they led on a few months ago. The NFL claims they had never seen the video, but if they really hadn't, why didn't they investigate the case further? Doesn't the NFL have the power to demand more surveillance video at the time of the incident? 

I think that the NFL needs to seriously reconsider their position on domestic violence. In my opinion, they handled this situation poorly. They knew what he did was wrong, but chose to ignore a more severe punishment in order to keep a star player. Domestic violence is wrong. Just because Rice is a professional athlete doesn't mean he should be exempt from punishment for this crime. What's the message the NFL is sending?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bill Gates...History Teacher?

When I decided to take American Studies, I thought it would be like my previous English and Modern World History class except combined instead of separate. I figured it would follow the same basic skeleton of the two classes, but I realized after the first day that I was completely wrong. We discussed the non-traditional curriculum for the year, which was unlike any other class I have taken: no tests, no point system, and no grades on papers. I was surprised, but after being in the class for a couple of weeks I began to adjust to the different approach, leading me to question the structure of other classes I have and will take in years to come.
While I was thinking further about this topic, I came across an article in the New York Times about Bill Gates’ recent involvement in history courses. Bill Gates has decided to team up with with history professor David Christian to produce “BigHistory”, a history course taught online through videos, articles and activities for high school students. It’s free and publicly accessible to virtually any teacher or student. However, this history course is unlike the generic history courses taught at school. "Big History" does not focus on one topic or class. "Instead, it put forward asynthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields,which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative oflife on earth.” Since its release in 2011, the number of high schools using Big History has increased from 5 to more than 1,200 schools and more than 15,000 students this fall. The greatest challenge so far however, has been with Gates himself. Should Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men, have the power to alter our schools history courses completely? He has the money to fund it, but is he really an expert on history and education? And can these videos really be equivalent to the history classes we take today?

Bill Gates isn't a teacher or professor, and his expertise is not in history. He merely found Christian's old videos, liked them, and decided to expand on them. However, I feel that since he has the money and the means to introduce this history course, he should be allowed to do it. I think his intentions are genuine and I don't see why he should be denied the opportunity to introduce a new way of teaching. I can see why critic's object to this idea, because it is so different from traditional history courses. In fact, I think that's what makes it intriguing. Immediately after I read the article, I went to their website and watched the first video."Big History" is not as detailed and comprehensive as our history courses, therefore I don't think it should replace our history classes today.  Instead of taking place of history courses, I think that maybe it should be added in addition to a history course. It ties together more than just history, so I feel like it should be in it's own category. So, what do you think? Should we keep the old or introduce something new?